Where to stay in LA? Grumpy family edition
January 30, 2020 6:40 PM   Subscribe

Planning a weeklong trip to LA to see family and friends, and trying to stay in one place while there, hopefully central to the many places we'll be visiting. Difficulty level: reluctant drivers with young kids in tow.

The family and friends we'll be visiting are spread out--Echo Park, Northridge, Hollywood--and so are the sightseeing things we'll probably do (Venice, Hollywood, downtown, possibly Disneyland). We don't have a car, our kids hate being in the car, the process & gear of moving ourselves around by car is a headache for all of us and so we're trying to minimize the amount of driving we'll do on this trip. (We do know how to drive and we'll be renting a car while in town.)

One of our party is a baby with us so we're trying to stay 
- in a single spot (avoiding multiple unpackings with all our baby gear)
- in a house rather than a hotel (so we're not confined to one room with a baby who'll go to sleep at 6pm)
- in a house rather than an apartment (for crying baby reasons)

Looking at vrbo / airbnb houses around Silver Lake and Los Feliz as a geographically central, convenient place where we might even be able to walk around a little bit, and so some of our drives will be 10-minute hops instead of 45+ minutes every time we get in the car. But it's also (predictably) expensive. Any other excellent ideas of neighborhoods where we should be looking?

Possibly relevant: I lived in LA for a bit ~30 years ago so generally know my way around but am not that familiar with it anymore. And to head off a reasonable suggestion: We may take the subway to one of our ports of call one day, so I'm sort of curious about proximity to that--but we don't expect to rely on public transport the whole time we're there. I also have seen and soaked up several recent asks on what-to-do in LA; this question is really about where to stay. Thanks.
posted by BespokePuppet to Travel & Transportation around Los Angeles, CA (8 answers total)
This is a Gordian knot. Venice, Disneyland, and Northridge are far, far apart. It only gets worse when you add in downtown and Hollywood.

That said: maybe Glendale? Good freeway access getting you to downtown and Hollywood, relatively easy to get the the valley (Northridge), and 45 minutes to Disneyland if you time the traffic right.
posted by mr_roboto at 6:53 PM on January 30, 2020 [3 favorites]

I agree that Glendale is probably your best bet, apart from the Silver Lake and Los Feliz options you've already identified, but unless you drop some items from that itinerary, you're inevitably going to have to do a fair bit of driving. The timing for getting to Disneyland especially is going to be tough if you want to a) maximize your time there while b) minimizing your driving time. Getting to Venice is also likely going to be a schlep.

I know Disneyland is, y'know, Disneyland and isn't exactly an experience amenable to substitutions, but if you really want to squeeze in a theme park visit while also minimizing your transportation time, you could try Universal Studios instead.
posted by yasaman at 7:11 PM on January 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Looking at your question again... I don’t think Disneyland makes sense with a baby with a 6pm bedtime unless you’re willing to split up your party and have someone stay with the baby at a park hotel.
posted by mr_roboto at 7:23 PM on January 30, 2020 [5 favorites]

I'd look at Burbank or possibly Koreatown.
posted by pazazygeek at 7:59 PM on January 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

What about Atwater Village, which is walkable and has tasty food in the area? (eg Proof Bakery, Tacos Villa Corona)

Can you ask some of these friends visit you? Especially if you've got a baby, it'd be easier for everyone.

If you have to do Disneyland, I'd do it at the beginning or end of your trip and stay in a hotel down there. If you get a multi-day pass, then you can enjoy the park at more leisure and not do the Disney deathmarch.
posted by mogget at 9:23 PM on January 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

I like the Koreatown suggestion - reasonably central proximity to your friends in Echo Park and Hollywood and tourist sites in Hollywood and downtown (~15-20 minute drive for each). It's going to be more apartment buildings close to 6th and Wilshire, but go north or south a block or two and you'll start seeing more houses again. Plus, the Purple Line runs right down Wilshire and it's an easy ride to downtown; if you're in the eastern part of Koreatown, the Wilshire-Vermont station also includes Red Line access that can get you up to Hollywood (and even Universal Studios!). If your kids hate being in the car That Much, though, you've got a lot of things on your list that are 45-60+ minutes away from any location central to all of them. Can you meet your Northridge friends somewhere in the middle?

I'd flat out skip Disney this trip if you only have one day to do it; it's just too far away. IFF you do it, I'd plan on two nights of Anaheim hotel, and here's why. Day 1 is driving to Anaheim and settling into your hotel with a shuttle or monorail to the park so you don't have to deal with driving from your hotel to the Disneyland parking lot just to get on a shuttle to the actual park anyway, and so that you can take breaks from Disneyland during Day 2 with your young kids who will need them, and getting a good night's sleep. Day 2 is Doing Disney with the ability to pop back to the hotel for breaks as needed; Day 3 is packing up and leaving Anaheim because you haven't cited any other people or things you'd want to see within 30 miles of Anaheim, so there's really no point in sticking around there.

Otherwise, your single Disney Day looks like 15 hours of balancing (1) Your baby's sleep schedule, combined with (2) any other nap schedules of your other kid(s), combined with (3) your reluctant driving (no judgment, Mr. Kouti and I too avoid getting behind the wheel of a car whenever possible and that includes traveling in LA), combined with (4) LA traffic (Disney as a 1-day trip coming from Central LA is 45-90 minutes driving each way given that you'll be trying to maximize park time around the other variables to fit in as much as possible which means driving at peak times which is not a recipe for fun for anyone), combined with (5) the sheer eye-gouging expense of Disneyland that will probably cost 50% of what you had budgeted for this trip after flights and lodging ...

And this is coming from me who grew up going to Disneyland on a semi-regular basis and still loves it!
posted by Pandora Kouti at 11:09 PM on January 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

You're going to drive a lot. There's no location you can choose to avoid it. I would therefore optimize for walkability of the immediate neighborhood (good for everyone's sanity in a family of non-car-users) and freeway access.

With this in mind, my suggestion is South Pasadena. It's going to seem like an odd suggestion if you look at a map, but it's on to the 110, and the 110 north of DTLA basically never has traffic, so you're effectively starting from Downtown for travel time purposes. Ideally you'd be near the Library/Metro station, or near Mission and Fair Oaks, the two commercial hubs. These are extremely pleasant areas for young families. They're compact and walkable, and SP is a pretty self-contained community, so it has all the boring amenities you'll need right there. (It's also ruinously expensive to live in SP, but it's very uncool and off the tourist track so Airbnb is probably cheaper than Los Feliz.)

I'd also recommend Highland Park for basically the same reasons. That's a big neighborhood. You want near the drag on Figueroa around 57th Ave for freeway (and Metro) access. (The other drag at York and 50th is great too but it's 5+ mins from the freeway and not walking distance to the Metro.) HP is a bit less compact and family-friendly (and hipper) than South Pasadena, but it's a few minutes closer to DTLA on the 110.

Silver Lake and Los Feliz are nice if you can do them in budget, but beware that some parts are not walkable for a family (e.g. north of Los Feliz Blvd, the high hills of Silver Lake). Given one of your plans is in Echo Park, why not Echo Park? Echo Park and Atwater Village are adjacent to Silver Lake (5-10 minute drive, not walking distance for a family), have similar but less wealthy vibes, and are probably cheaper for Airbnbs. Eagle Rock looks further on a map but it's a very quick (10 minute) drive to Echo Park. It's the least walkable neighborhood I mentioned, but I bet it has the cheapest Airbnbs.

Glendale is a good idea, but it's a large city, and your experience will depend a lot on where you end up there. Just throwing out a search term: Adams Square in Glendale is worth considering. It's very close to Eagle Rock and has the same advantages/disadvantages.
posted by caek at 11:09 PM on January 30, 2020 [3 favorites]

You can death march Disneyland (or at least most of the big attractions) in one day by piling the kiddos into the car super early, possibly half awake, getting to Downtown Disney before rush hour picks up and in time for park opening, and using ride-planner apps along with phone-based Fastpasses to minimize downtime — but it's a lot less enjoyable than spending at least one night down there.

Plus, there are things to see at night (parades, fireworks, etc) that are going to be exhausting to hang around for if you arrived in the morning, run from one ride to another all day, and then have to drive back later.

(The planning apps and phone-based fast passes are worth it either way.)
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:25 AM on January 31, 2020 [1 favorite]

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